House Lust: The Orchard, a Palatial Newport Chateau with an Illustrious Past, is on the Market

The French-inspired manse was built for a Civil War colonel.

Some folks might see “it has the largest private pool in the state,” and that’s enough. Say no more. Show me the House Lust.

Indulge me, though, won’t you? Because this place, like all old ones tended over the decades, has a story to tell. From socialites to recluses, and a robbery that still haunts the dreams of Newport’s grand dames, the Orchard has seen it all.

Built over two years for $60,000, the 18,591-square-foot yellow brick mansion was, by and large, an anomaly in 1870s Newport, where red brick reigned supreme. But its owner, George Richmond Fearing, craved a true French chateau, writes James Yarnall in his 2005 tome, Newport Through Its Architecture. So Fearing did what any good melting-pot American would do (he was a Civil War colonel, after all): He bought the blueprints for a Swiss country house, which was designed by a French architect, and commissioned Newport’s architectural darling, George Champlin Mason and Son, to modify them.

Fearing, a founder of the Newport Casino, willed the estate to his son, an early aviator married to a women’s suffrage activist. From there, the house entertained a bit of a dark cloud. Its next stewards bought the place after the hurricane of 1938 swept several of their servants out to sea at their previous mansion, the newly built Seafair. Next up: the reclusive heiress and widow Elizabeth Firestone, who lived next door and used the mansion as a buffer from her neighbors and storage for her dresses. The following owners lost the estate to bankruptcy and the next one, an art investor, lost nearly everything else in a 3 a.m. home invasion, when robbers handcuffed him and his lady friend to the bed so they could cherry pick the Orchard in peace. The thieves used his Jaguar as the getaway car.

Richard Saul Wurman, the TED mastermind, seemed to dispel the dark cloud by operating his wildly popular conference from the house. After two decades at the Orchard, Wurman and his wife sold the estate for a bargain sum of $1.055 million. It was turned around twice more, most recently in 2018, when it underwent a series of interior and exterior renovations before hitting the market with Vanderbilt International Properties in January of 2020.

Alright, alright, here’s the ninety-foot swimming pool (and your House Lust):

For more information on the Orchard, contact Vanderbilt International Properties’ Stacie Mills at 401-619-3333 or visit theorchardri.com.